It's been an interesting few weeks. Commencement ceremonies were held on May 15th, so things are pretty quiet around Weinmann Hall. Outside of Weinmann Hall, less so. Earlier this spring, a bill was proposed in the Louisiana Senate which would have restricted the kinds of work any law school clinics in the state could do. It quickly became apparent that the bill was directed primarily at Tulane's Environmental Law Clinic, the rationale being that the Environmental Law Clinic's success in enforcing existing federal and state environmental regulations is harmful to the chemical and oil and gas industries in the state. After much national attention and public commentary (almost entirely in support of law school clinics generally, and ours in particular), the Louisiana Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing in Baton Rouge on Wednesday, May 19th. The directors of our six clinics, along with their teaching fellows and many of our students, summoned the information and resources necessary to present strong testimony in opposition to the proposed bill. Tulane's president, Scott Cowen, and the Law School's interim dean, Stephen Griffin, were eloquent and effective in their testimony. The result was that the bill was killed, at least for now.
Later in the week, in the context of a debate over an unrelated proposal concerning potential litigation over BP's oil disaster in theGulf of Mexico, one Louisiana state senator opined, in a tip of the hat to Tulane's clinics, "we should allow the Tulane law clinic to get in here and provide some representaiton because apparently they are pretty scary."
The BP disaster is on all of our minds. Late last week, we had the opportunity to meet with Andrew Winer, Director of External Affairs for the National Oceanographic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and Andrea Bleistein, also with NOAA (Project Manager - Weather & Satellites), in the context of their first visit to Louisiana since the BP blow-out. They were here to gather information about the most effective ways of getting accurate, on-the-ground information about the effects of the disaster on the people who live and work here. Listening to Mike Murphy, Community Outreach Director for the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic, and Mark Davis, Director of our Institute for Water Resources Law & Policy, talk about the effect of the disaster on the coastal communities was eye-opening. And it's not only our environmental faculty who will be in demand as experts. This is as much a maritime disaster as an environmental one, and Professor Robert Force is just one of the maritime scholars affiliated with Tulane who has something to say about the situation.